The Play’s the Thing

A 12-year-old with DMD shines in a youthful production of "Oliver!" – power chair and all

Article Highlights:
  • Andrew Longwell, 12, of Rochester, N.Y., performs in Greece Athena Middle School Theatre's  production of "Oliver!"
  • Watch a TV news report on the production that includes an interview with Longwell, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
by Bill Norman on February 25, 2010 - 5:54pm

Surrounded by loaves of bread, 12-year-old Andrew Longwell looks like a real baker. The chef’s hat helps, too.

The sixth-grader from Rochester, N.Y., completes the picture with his voice. He sings a charmingly youthful rendition of “Who Will Buy?” one of the songs in the musical “Oliver!” He and other students are performing the show at the Greece Athena Middle School Theatre in Rochester for two weeks starting Feb. 26.

Wasn’t gonna do it

Marlene Fumia, Andrew’s grandmother, says the outgoing youngster, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, originally was reluctant to try out.

“He said he wasn’t gonna do it, wasn’t gonna do it, wasn’t gonna do it. He said he didn’t want to be the only one up there in a wheelchair. And what if he forgot his lines?” recalls Fumia.

“Next thing I know, he’s changed his mind, and wants to know when I can take him to the audition.”

Still playing the role of reluctant participant, Andrew confided later that he hadn’t put his all into the tryout, because he wasn’t sure he wanted to be on stage.

But he got the baker’s part just the same.

“The director told me he’d selected Andrew for the part – even though his singing wasn’t all that great in the audition – because Andrew’s music teacher, who knew Andrew’s true ability, spilled the beans,” Fumia says.

From then on, the youngster, who Fumia describes as “12-going-on-22,” tackled his role with enthusiasm. Fumia wrote in one e-mail that “We are home from rehearsal, and finally in bed asleep. It took him ages to unwind tonight!”

A full schedule

When he’s not playing the role of baker, Andrew is a serious hockey fan. He wants to be a sports broadcaster. He also loves to play video games with his older brother.

Contacted during a short break in his busy schedule, Andrew is asked how he’s doing in school. Is he, for example, on the honor roll? He's quick to correct the misperception: “I’m a high honor roll student — that’s four-point-oh or higher!”

And then he was off, grandmother in tow, headed for the theater. A musical is nothing without its singing baker.

Watch a TV news story that includes an interview with Andrew Longwell. (courtesy of WHEC-TV, Rochester, NY)

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

OliverVideo.flv5.64 MB
Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)
MDA cannot respond to questions asked in the comments field. For help with questions, contact your local MDA office or clinic or email See comment policy